the 2022 Faculty Reading Alum took place at 5:00 p.m. at the Oakland Center on Wednesday, March 16. With a hybrid virtual and in-person format, two alumni and a faculty member from Oakland University’s creative writing program joined the students for a special reading.
The event was the third reading in a series celebrating the 10th anniversary of the creative writing program. Reading, Professor Peter Markus and alumni Suzanna Honda and James Braun each read excerpts from their published work, shared information about their experiences at OU, and answered questions from students.
Books were sold and attendees were able to have their authors sign them, and there was also a Q&A session to wrap up the event.
Braun introduced the former and explained how his heart is still in the fiction genre.
“I wrote a non-fiction book and I wrote a poetry book,” Braun said. “It wasn’t where my heart was – fiction is where my heart is right now. Find the words that matter most to you. You take that and let the words carry you, wherever those words take you. Sometimes it fails, but it’s worth it.
Braun read an excerpt from his book “What the river gives back to us.” The book has two voices, and he read from each.
The first voice is that of a character in a funeral home during their mother’s funeral. Braun read the character as he watched his father in a boat on the river, and the narration gives the audience images, almost as if he were in the scene.
Honda opened by talking about her first day in Markus’ writing class and the lessons she learned from him. She then read an excerpt from her poetry book “When We Were Birds”, a story in memory of her friend. The book will be published later in 2022 by Porkbelly Press, although there is no official release date yet.
“When We Were Birds” gives audiences earthy visuals, as well as plenty of other sensory detail using nature. Birds are used as a symbol for girls throughout the story.
Markus has written several novels, including fiction, poetry and memoir. Markus read several entries from his collection of poetry “When our fathers return to us as birds.”
The book is a grieving process. It contains 53 stories, and according to Markus, there are even more.
“These are all characters I’ve lived with for about a decade of my life,” Markus said. “In my basement somewhere, somewhere there is a folder or a drawer, and there are still 150 stories that will never see the light of day in book form.”
During his reading, Markus reiterated the importance for writers to pay attention to the world around them.
“I wouldn’t have written this book if I hadn’t paid attention to it,” Markus said.
Markus explained that he was tired of making things up to write fiction, so he decided to take a break. He ended up writing a memoir about his time teaching in Detroit.